Human Systems FAQs

Human Systems FAQs

What is burnout?

The term burnout was originally used to refer to the lack of functioning associated with excessive drug use. Today, it can refer to the decreased performance and functioning at work associated with excessive workloads, lack of support, and lack of decision-making power at one’s job.

What is moral injury?

There is a movement to replace the term burnout, which some people believe is derogatory and wrongly places the blame of burnout on the individual, with the concept of moral injury. Moral injury refers to performance difficulties following events that violate one’s morals, values, or ethics. The term was originally used to describe war veterans’ difficulties in functioning following events in which they were forced to commit acts that were counter to their morals, but has recently been adapted to describe the individual after-effects of having to go against one’s principles in the workplace.

How do you prevent burnout?

Burnout manifests on the individual level, but it is primarily a systems issue that requires systems solutions. Research shows that lack of autonomy, or decision-making power, and oversized workloads are primary contributors to burnout. Therefore, the organization needs to find ways to operate such that employees can make decisions about how best to do their job and are also able to create positive change that can ripple throughout the organization. Employees who have too much work to meet established deadlines while maintaining expected levels of work quality will burn out. Though spreading work across fewer employees may save resources in the short term, it is far more costly in the long run because the organization will have to replace employees who quit, make up for increased sick leave and work absences, and will also see continually decreasing levels of productivity. Human Systems leadership principles, based on extensive scientific research, are both a measure and a prescription for burnout prevention in organizations. Visit our collection of free scientific research to learn more about burnout and evidence-based burnout prevention.

How do you cure or stop burnout?

Scientific research indicates that a multi-level approach is required to stop significant burnout in an organization. Individual employees experience burnout in different ways, so services need to be established to address individual needs. In addition, changes to policies and processes may be required for workload adjustment, or to increase employees’ decision-making power. Finally – and this is the hardest part – an open and transparent culture that is accepting of the realities of burnout and mental health issues needs to be established. Human Systems leadership principles, based on extensive scientific research, are both a measure and a prescription for burnout prevention in organizations. Visit our collection of free scientific research to learn more about burnout and evidence-based burnout prevention.

What is emotional competence?

The concept of emotional competence, developed by Dr. Peters when she was conducting her dissertation research, combines the concepts of emotional intelligence and leadership. If emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and consider yours and others’ emotions in your decision-making, and leadership is any action taken for the purpose of change, then emotional competence is the ability to recognize and use yours and others’ emotions to create positive change in your life or your organization. To learn more about the practical applications of emotional competence, check out our workshop and our “Turn Your Emotions into Action” tool.

What is systems thinking?

Very basically, systems thinking is the ability to understand how an entire system of people – a group, an organization, a society – affects the individuals in it and how those individuals and their relationships affect the system, including how it functions and its output. For example, a family is a small system. If one parent in a two-parent family with three children and two dogs decides to go back to work after staying home for 10 years, that change will have a big effect on everybody in the system, as well as on how the system functions. More money will be coming in, which could mean more material resources for the family members. The house could get messier because the parent who went back to work doesn’t have the energy to do the same chores when they get home. The pets may become stressed because they are alone during the day. One of the kids might start changing their behavior at school because they miss the parent who went back to work. All of these effects, and many more, will combine to create other effects, which will affect the individuals and, in turn, affect the entire family system.

Understanding how a system works can help us manage changes better. Human Systems has a tool called Circles of Influence Method (CIM) that is a great way to teach employees how to think about their organization as a whole and understand how their actions and relationships affect processes and other employees.

What is leadership?

Leadership can refer to a set of behaviors, a group of people in an organization, or a value-laden ideal. If we are talking about the act, most definitions from the past 100 years or so agree that leadership is purposeful action for change. The term leadership can be contrasted with management, which is purposeful action to maintain stability. At Human Systems, we offer several tools for leadership development for your organization and its employees.

What is systems leadership?

According to the World Economic Forum, systems leadership is what is needed to make sustainable changes to complex systems. Elements of systems leadership include individual leadership skills, understanding of the system, and community engagement in the form of coalition-building. For example, Christiana Figueres showed excellent systems leadership skills when she led the 2015 Paris Agreement, by bringing together many countries with varied interests for a landmark global environmental change effort. Systems leadership can take place on a much smaller scale as well. Any time you bring different stakeholders together to make positive change in a system with an understanding of the system and how it works, you are engaging in systems leadership.

What is mindful leadership?

Our definition of leadership, based on the review of hundreds of leadership definitions in the scientific literature, is “any action taken for the purpose of creating change.” With such a simple, inclusive definition, anybody can be a leader at any time, regardless of their position on the organizational chart or their demographic characteristics. Mindfulness is about being more aware of our mind-body system and our environment in the present moment. Therefore, mindful leadership is “change-driven action that reflects everybody’s needs and perspective.

What is systemic conflict?

Conflict is all around us, happening every day, and we can use our conflicts to make positive changes in the workplace, with our clients, and at home. Though conflict often shows up in interactions between two, or just a few, people, the causes of conflict are often systemic. This means that there may be certain conditions in the organization that are causing conflict that, were the conditions not present, would not happen, or would at least be less severe. The six major conditions of systems conflict are: 1) autocracy (not enough decision-making power for employees); 2) disrespectful patterns of behavior throughout the organization; 3) a strict power hierarchy (people at the ‘top’ have much more formal and information power than people at the ‘bottom’); 4) absence of shared goals; 5) low morale; and 6) inequities (differences in how employees are treated that are based on unofficial, non-transparent criteria).

What is conflict management?

The concept of conflict management assumes that conflict is inevitable. When we manage conflict, we create consistent methods of approaching conflict to minimize damage to individuals and the organization. Conflict management is like directing water with structures such as dams, reservoirs, and locks, which we use to harness the power of the water and minimize collateral damage. When we manage conflict, we can use the power of the conflict for positive change while removing a lot of the hurt that can result from unmanaged conflict. At Human Systems, we offer several tools to help you effectively manage conflict in your organization.

What is the difference between conflict management and conflict resolution?

Conflict management is an ongoing, consistent set of behaviors designed to harness the power of conflict for positive change while minimizing collateral damage. Conflict resolution refers to the point when a conflict ceases to be a conflict. Resolution does not necessarily mean that all parties are satisfied with the outcome. A conflict can be resolved because one person has more power than the other person and pushes their agenda through. Conflict can also be resolved when the circumstances that gave rise to the conflict change.

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is a quality of organizational culture that allows for open, honest, and transparent communication by any employee or stakeholder with an expectation that their voices will be heard and considered, and without fear of retribution. Organizations that create a psychologically safe culture for their employees are making an excellent investment in organizational success and sustainability. Visit our collection of free scientific research to learn more about psychological safety and its benefits.

Why is community engagement important for a business or organization?

At Human Systems, we use the term community engagement to describe an organization’s development of mutually beneficial relationships in the surrounding physical community. Community engagement is one piece of the larger concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which refers to an organization’s ability to align the best interests of the company with the best interests of its employees, customers, stakeholders, larger society, and the environment. For smaller organizations with fewer resources, full-on CSR may not be feasible, but community engagement is always a possibility and brings many of the same benefits as CSR – organizational sustainability, increased profits, better outcomes, and reduced burnout and turnover. Human Systems offers several tools on how to practice organizational community engagement.

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

When an organization or business practices corporate social responsibility (CSR), they are ideally finding ways to align the best interests of the company with the best interests of the employees, customers, various stakeholders, society, and the environment. CSR is a combination of effective employee and community engagement. Practicing CSR effectively means that an organization does not just meet the needs of employees in terms of salaries and benefits, or customers in terms of product, but it also produces a net positive for the world. Aside from the fact that CSR is becoming an expectation of large corporations, practicing CSR has many benefits to an organization in terms of long-term sustainability, increasing profits, and reducing turnover and burnout. Visit our collection of free scientific research to learn more about CSR and its benefits.

What is corporate sustainability?

Corporate sustainability is another, more recent, term for corporate social responsibility. Corporate sustainability refers to both the organization’s practices – operating in a way that is sustainable for the environment, employees, clients, etc. – as well as to the practice outcomes, which would ideally be the overall sustainability of the organization.

What are psychosocial risk factors?

Psychosocial risk factors are conditions that may affect workers’ response to work and relationships, such as high workloads, unreasonable deadlines, and lack of control over work. These are all conditions that may lead to burnout and physical illness.

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